Cad system and building information modelling

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The CAD system used for the design is a standard software package used widely around the world. The designers have no experience of working with Building Information Modelling (BIM). How should they set about how to incorporate BIM on this project?

The YIT as the design-build contractor for the project have employed a local design consultancy firm, Zorky and Company, to engineer and design the entire facility and the surrounding site for their knowledge and experience of working in the area, their knowledge of all design codes and familiarity with the local regulatory framework. The relationship is further strengthened by the fact that the companies has previously worked together and, therefore, the systems of both may be aligned early in the project which shall be critical due to the constrained time-frame of the project.

It has been given to understand that the client has requested the use of an advanced CAD system like the AutoCAD on the project linked to a BIM system (possibly the Autodesk Revit). It is assumed, for the purpose of discussion, that the design firm is familiar with the use of AutoCAD (or some other CAD software) which is really the norm in the industry nowadays and the real issue is the adoption and migration towards the Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology which the company has no experience with. The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) in its practice builder on BIM defines it as "creation and use of coordinated, consistent, computable information about a building project in design that yields reliable digital representations of the building- representation used for design decision-making, production of high-quality construction documents, performance predictions, cost-estimating and construction planning, and, eventually managing and operating the facility."

BIM has several advantages to offer for all parties involved in the project. While adopting BIM by the UK-based design consultancy firm MAAP, they observed that " [BIM] offers a more accurate, better co-ordinated design data; earlier visualisation and collaboration with different project disciplines; automatic propagation of changes at all levels (made possible by bi-directional associativity of plans, sections, elevations and schedules) and the facility to improve energy efficiency and sustainability [models may be used for simulation and analytical purposes]". Creation of 3-dimensional models help make aesthetic decisions better, allow early clash detection and enable making informed decisions in time thus improving the overall quality of the design. Association of the BIM model with the fourth and fifth dimensions of time and cost allows availability of up-to-date schedules and cost figures (and implications) at all times. It enhances document coordination throughout the project duration and serves obvious purposes for facility management when the building is in use. Most importantly, it facilitates collaboration of more stakeholders (clients, designers, contractors, specialist traders, the users and the entire supply chain) optimizing the entire design and construction process and makes available relevant information for all present and future purposes on a single user-friendly database.

Once it is clear what the technology has to offer, it is important for the design firm to decide at the outset the extent to which it wants to adopt the technology. Research has shown that the BIM technology is usually adopted on one of the three levels:

At level 1à it is used simply as a better way to get drawings, renderings and construction documents (a mere enhancement over the CAD platform) reducing errors and omissions and decreasing design and drawing time;

At level 2à the model is enriched with data and all elements are associated with their properties that allows analysis under various conditions and returns results to the designer in both tabular and graphical form (thermal analysis, quantity take-offs, costing, lighting and fixture layouts based on design calculations affecting luminance and radiance in the design space, wind and air flow analysis for HVAC purposes, solar shading analysis, structural analysis, acoustic analysis, massing of built structures, etc);

At level 3à it offers means of simulation that allows integration and display of results of multiple analysis programs running simultaneously while allowing the user to modify the BIM model in real-time and see the consequences as they are made.

Most design firms right now use the BIM technology in some ratio at the second level which also seems to be an achievable target for the design firm in question looking at the tight schedule of the project.

At this stage it is important for the design firm to identify the major challenges it faces in adoption of this technology.

The major challenges may be listed as:

* Employee motivation (overcoming comfort with familiar software tools);

* Training and Mentoring;

* Financial Expenditure (to upgrade computer hardware, for transition from existing software platform and to enhance networking capabilities);

* Convincing management to explore a new paradigm;

* Reduced productivity during training and transition;

* Developing component libraries and details (complete databases); and

* Establishing office standards

It may be recognised that successful implementation of the technology requires to address issues related to people, processes and technology and entails a change in the entire design process that the firm should be ready to accept and adopt.

The first step to adoption of any new technology and tool is to inform and educate the employees about the intended change and what are the expected outcomes from the adoption and migration to the new platform. At this stage it is also vital to select a team of motivated professionals who may be deputed to this project. It is assumed that of all the various options for a BIM platform available in the market, Zorky & Company have decided to adopt Autodesk Revit. While training on the use of the software should be imparted to all concerned professionals in the office, it is important that the select team be made part of a forum for regular discussions on Revit workflow issues and how to overcome them on the new platform. Project specific training courses may be organized in association with the Moscow office of Autodesk or certified trainers may be employed for the project duration to act as 'in-house' support network and streamline processes in the pilot project (positions of BIM Manager and BIM Coordinator may be created).

It is important to realise that this particular project shall serve as an ideal pilot project for the design firm firstly, because it is being procured by a design-build method that itself looks to integrate the design and construct activities, secondly, because the size of the project is neither too big or too small and thirdly, because the intended structure is a relatively simple factory building architecturally.

While the training of the staff is critical, it is important that all concerned workstations in the office be upgraded to identical configurations to accommodate the needs of the new software and allow easy flow of information within the team. Although a significant investment, it is critical to implement the system accurately to avoid clashes between software protocols at a later date that may affect the project adversely.

Decision may also be made at what stage the output from the Revit platform shall be introduced into the flow of information to the site as early stages of the project shall be dealt with the CAD protocol (during the transition towards the new platform). Further, as the knowledge of the team may be restricted during this pilot project, specific details at large scale may still be developed on the AutoCAD platform while general arrangement drawings, site layouts and schedules may be developed on the Revit platform (the team should refrain from over-modelling).

To allow better integration of work and reduce work pressure on individual team members, parts of the project may be developed separately and then linked together and integrated into the master model. The Revit software also allows building the 3D model on the drawings imported from the AutoCAD software thus allowing work to progress at a steady rate even during the transient state.

The full potential of BIM shall only be realised when the model can be shared with other disciplines like the structural designers, M&E specialists and other trade specialists. However, this poses a considerable threat currently. The matter of ownership of the model and the right to make amendments and modifications to the model (data interaction protocols) is a big legal issue. Any modification made to the BIM model by a project partner without due consultation with all the other concerned can seriously jeopardise the project. The rights to access the model need to be monitored carefully and built-in into the contract documents to avoid clashes at a later date.

From the point of view of the design consultant, this is a great opportunity for the design firm to upgrade itself. Recent economic crisis has left firms looking for work but have also provided the atmosphere to learn new technologies and adopt them to put themselves in more competitive positions. This will also serve as an example of development of skill due to client requirements.


Bernstein (2004), Barriers to Adoption of Building Information Modelling in the Building Industry, Autodesk White Paper

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